Archive for the ‘Scottish Government’ Category

The right to critique ideas, philosophical, religious and other must be protected.

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Humanist Society Scotland logo A joint open letter from over 20 individuals and organisations highlights their concerns over the impact on artistic expression and free expression of the draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.The letter co-ordinated by Humanist Society Scotland has support from authors Val McDermid, Chirs Brookmyre and Alan Bissett alongside arts administrators Dame Seona Reid and the artistic director of Dundee Rep, Andrew Paton. They join Cartoonists Rights International and academics such as Prof AC Grayling and Prof Timothy Garden Ash alongside many others.

The letter reads:

We represent a diverse group of individuals and organisations concerned about the impact on freedom of expression of the proposed Hate Crime and Public Order Bill as currently drafted.

We welcome the provisions to consolidate existing aggravated hate crimes and the repeal of the blasphemy law.

However, the Bill creates stirring up offences without any intent being examined; merely that the words, action, or artwork might do so. This offence could even be applied to being in possession of materials produced by someone else, where sharing the material could stir up hatred.

The unintended consequences of this well meaning Bill risk stifling freedom of expression, and the ability to articulate or criticise religious and other beliefs.

As currently worded, the Bill could frustrate rational debate and discussion which has a fundamental role in society including in artistic endeavour. The arts play a key part in shaping Scotland’s identity in addition to being a significant economic contributor.

The right to critique ideas, philosophical, religious and other must be protected to allow an artistic and democratic society to flourish.

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK
Scottish PEN
Index on Censorship
Chris Brookmyre, Novelist
Val McDermid, Writer
Elaine C Smith, Actor and Comedian
Dame Seona Reid, Arts Administrator
Alan Bissett, Playwright and Novelist
Ruth Wishart, Journalist and Broadcaster
Andrew Panton, Artistic Director Dundee Rep / Joint CEO Dundee Rep & Scottish Dance Theatre Ltd
Prof. Maggie Kinloch, Theatre Director & Chair Humanist Society Scotland
Ariane Sherine, Comedian and Journalist
Joan Smith, Journalist, novelist, and human rights activist
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Rowan Atkinson, Comedian
Prof. A C Grayling, Philosopher and Author
Prof. Timothy Garton Ash, Historian and author of Free Speech
Nick Ross, Television and Radio Presenter
Terry Anderson, Executive Director, Cartoonists Rights Network International
Gary McLelland, Chief Executive, Humanists International
Michael Connarty, Former MP and former Chair of Parliamentary Humanist Group
Dr Evan Harris, Former MP and former Vice-Chair of Parliamentary Humanist Group
Quilliam Foundation

With a disgraceful new bill whose public consultation has just closed

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scottish-government logo A public consultation has closed on changes to Scotland’s hate crime laws that will diminish free speech even further.The plans to make it a criminal offence to stir up hatred, criticise or insult anyone based on their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

The bill will massively step up the definitions of what people are not allowed to stay lest it be considered insulting to easily offended identity groups, particularly sensitive religions. The bill also extends from people’s words into the possession of material that might be considered critical of sensitive identity groups.

The disgraceful bill has been opposed by many particularly the most effected, like newspapers.

Opposition to the bill has united the Catholic Church and the National Secular Society in opposition to the plans – along with academics, playwrights and newspaper columnists who all say they fear the proposed legislation will pose a threat to their freedom of speech. For example comedians could become too frightened to dare make a joke about a Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman walking into a bar.

The public were invited to make their views known to the Scottish parliament’s justice committee before midnight on 24 July.

Amanda Millar, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said:

It was right that laws provide a clear message that hatred should have no place in our society. However, we have significant reservations regarding a number of the bill’s provisions and the lack of clarity, which could in effect lead to restrictions in freedom of expression, one of the foundations of a democratic society. We have real concerns that certain behaviour, views expressed or even an actor’s performance, which might well be deemed insulting or offensive, could result in a criminal conviction under the terms of the bill as currently drafted.

Scottish Labour criticised the offence of stirring up hatred and accused ministers of failing to learn the lessons of the repealed Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. The party’s justice spokesman James Kelly said:

There is a significant divergence from similar law in England and Wales where intent is required for a person to be criminalised for behaviour which another finds insulting. Under the current proposals, the law here would not require this intent to be present – which sets an alarming legal precedent and could result in the criminalisation of expressions of religious views.

In its submission to Holyrood’s Justice Committee, the Scottish Newspaper Society warned that it contained highly dangerous measures which pose a serious threat to freedom of expression in its broadest sense. The organisation’s director, John McLellan, said it had the potential to provoke a string of vexatious complaints against journalists and columnists, which could then lead to police investigations. He raised further concerns about provisions against communicating insulting material:

It would also be an offence to distribute it, which potentially could see newspaper delivery boys and girls, or shops, fall foul of the law.

Allowing courts to direct the destruction of material had echoes of darker times and could lead to the banning of books or censorship of the internet, he warned.

He added that JK Rowling, who has recently faced a deluge of criticism from transgender rights activists after she expressed her views online, would almost certainly have seen her subjected to a police investigation had the proposed law been in force.

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scottish government logo Scotland’s government has joined the ranks of many others around the world who are actively working on constraining free speech by amending existing laws to make them even more oppressive than before.The current law restricting ‘hate crimes’ is similar to that in England and Wales, covering threats, abuse, and insults.

But based on what’s described as a hard-line report from 2018, Scotland’s upgraded Hate Crime and Public Order Bill proposed by parliament now looks to change that and introduce three new offences,

  • The first will enable for prosecution of doing anything, or communicating any material, which is threatening or abusive and is intended or likely to engender hatred based on age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender or intersex identity.
  • Secondly having material of this kind in one’s possession meant to be in any way communicated to others will in itself now be a crime,
  • and thirdly, managers in organizations of any type not acting to prevent the new set of criminalized behaviours will be criminalized themselves.

The proposals’ critics say it is anti-liberal and must not be allowed to pass, pointing out that the bill takes the focus away from punishing acts of hostility based on their gravity regardless of who they target, and instead introduces a tiered approach, depending on groups that are designated as considered more ‘worthy’ of the victimhood status.

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scottish government logo Scotland’s justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the blasphemy law in Scotland would be modernised to cover discrimination against religion. Yousaf said the law would also cover discrimination against age, disability, race and sexual orientation. He said:

By creating robust laws for the justice system, parliament will send a strong message to victims, perpetrators, communities and to wider society that offences motivated by prejudice will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated.

Blasphemy laws were repealed in England and Wales in 2008.

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See article from heraldscotland.com

No Fun: The Scottish Government logoSome members of the public will be given a greater say on whether table-dancing clubs are given licences under new plans unveiled by the Scottish Government.

Ministers will consult on proposals to establishnew licensing restrictions for sexual entertainment venues. The Government said the consultation also seeks specific views on whether licensing authorities should be able to totally ban such venues.

The Government is launching the consultation after similar plans were rejected in the last Parliament.

The move has the support of MSPs and gender extremists. The Women’s Support Project in Glasgow said:

This move recognises that what is for sale on premises is sexual arousal and such premises should have their own specific license and no longer fall in the same category as leisure or entertainment venues.

This move also provides better consistency with the overall approach in Scotland which sees lap dancing as a form of exploitation and helps support a culture in which women are viewed in narrow and objectifying ways.

‘Justice’ Secretary Kenny MacAskill claimed:

This consultation seeks views on proposals that will give licensing authorities the powers to reflect local views and control the presence and operation of such venues in their areas.

These venues undoubtedly divide opinion. However, the proposed licensing regime is about ensuring the safety and protection of customers and workers while making sure the interests of local communities are protected.

The newspaper chose not to include opinions from the venues, employees or customers.

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See article from heraldscotland.com

scottish police federation logoPolice are continuing to voice concerns about new laws targeted at offensive behaviour and religious hatred in and around football grounds.

They warn that there is still confusion around areas such as the definition of sectarianism.

As the contentious Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 comes into force today, the organisation representing rank and file police officers — the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) — said earlier misgivings had not changed.

Brian Docherty, the newly installed chairman of the SPF, said doubts remained, particularly around the definition of sectarianism. He said:

Reservations are still there. But the law has passed and we now have to run with it regardless of concerns over impact on resources.

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See article from heraldscotland.com

scottish beer and pub association logoPubs across Scotland could close unless the Government spells out to landlords what constitutes an offence under new laws designed to tackle football-related bigotry, trade lobbyists have warned. inShare2 Custom byline text: GERRY BRAIDEN

With arrest rates for sectarian behaviour expected to accelerate after the Offensive Behaviour Act receives Royal Assent, the country’s largest licensed trade group fears hundreds of bar and pub owners could become collateral damage.

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has joined a long list of other parties asking for clarification on matters such as what songs and slogans are in and out and has asked for ministers and the police to provide real-life scenarios of situations which could unfold in licensed premises.

The Government has said the police’s football co-ordination unit was already setting up meetings with licensing authorities to discuss the implementation of the legislation.

In his letter to Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham, SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne said that as long as it was unclear how the laws would impact on the trade there was a high risk a licensed premise could find itself being reported to the local licensing board which could then sanction their premises licence, with implications for the business.

He added: Given the new and very specific nature of the offences under the new Act relating to licensed premises, it would be helpful for my members and licensees more generally to have further guidance from the Government as to which types of behaviour on their premises would be unacceptable under the terms of legislation. This would assist them in fulfilling the expectations of licensing boards and the police more generally.

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See article from scotsman.com

The Scottish ParliamentScottish football fans could soon be arrested for singing what the authorities deem offensive or sectarian songs at football game. The repressive new legislation has led to suggestions that fans could face prosecution for singing the national anthem or crossing themselves.

The SNP government has been accused of using its substantial majority to steamroller through the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communication Scotland Bill, despite widespread concerns from opposition parties and bodies outside Holyrood. But the measures are backed by the police and prosecution chiefs.

Ministers rejected a series of opposition amendments aimed at refining the laws and the bill is now expected to complete its third stage reading by parliament in mid-December. It should become law by mid-January.

Patrick Harvie, the leader of the Green Party, claimed the SNP has forced the measures through parliament, ignoring a growing chorus of objections. This prompted him to claim that the measures had been steamrollered through parliament. Ministers are stubbornly determined to force it through in the teeth of consistent and reasoned opposition from all quarters, inside and outside parliament, he said.

The freedom of expression clause was agreed though which covers communications, such as messages sent over the internet, which may contain insults or abuse of religious beliefs. But it does not cover online messages which are threatening or likely to cause public disorder. Neither does it apply to sectarian or threatening behaviour at and around football matches. Another change made by the committee widens part of the bill to include people not necessarily travelling to a football match.

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See interview from atvtoday.co.uk

scottish government logoFiona Hyslop the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs at the Scottish Parliament was interviewed on ATV Today about broadcasting in the country.

ATV Today: What powers does the Scottish Government have over media organisations that are based and / or broadcast in Scotland?

Fiona Hyslop: Powers over Broadcasting are almost entirely reserved to the UK Parliament and Government. The Scottish Government is seeking greater influence over broadcasting policy and has made a submission to the UK Government in an attempt to have this recognised in the Scotland Bill.

ATV Today: Would you ever consider trying to implement a regulatory body to control the media and get rid of the existing governance from OFCOM and the PCC?

Fiona Hyslop: There is significant difference between regulation and ‘control’. We would ensure that appropriate regulation is in place for the media sector in an independent Scotland, as it is in other European nations such as Ireland, Finland and Denmark.

…Read the full interview

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Based on article from heraldscotland.com

fans against criminalisation logoHundreds of football fans turned out in Glasgow on Saturday to protest against proposals for a new anti-sectarianism bill. More than 700 people cheered as key speakers from Fans Against Criminalisation called for the bill, currently going through the Scottish Parliament, to be scrapped.

Banners with slogans including kill the bill were waved at the mass gathering in the city’s George Square. Organisers of the event said they were delighted with the support, which they say reflected the strength of feeling on the issue.

Jeanette Findlay, of Fans Against Criminalisation, said:

We want this dangerous piece of legislation stopped in its tracks. If they want to tackle sectarianism, use the existing powers… It is not a proper piece of legislation and is unnecessary and unworkable.